Atheists: What did you believe before? What do you believe now?





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Uploaded on Oct 31, 2010

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Hello youtube atheists, and in particular, hello to theramintrees. My name is Sai.

I've seen and enjoy several of your videos, and have a few questions.

First off, kudos to you, theramintrees, on the excellent aesthetic and production values. I'd be interested to know what you use to create them (software, fonts, etc) and whether you do the illustrations yourself or, if not, where you get them.

Second, to all of you who used to be Christians, what exactly did you believe prior to your conversion? You've generally glossed over this, referring to it instead in very general terms, but as you surely know there are quite a wide variety of theisms. A video simply stating in a clear way what you used to believe (including its limits or uncertainties, but not explicitly trying to discredit it) would be interesting.

Third, to all of you who describe yourselves as atheists, what exactly do you believe now, of gods? Most of you use the generic unqualified term 'atheist' to describe yourself. This unqualified term often encompasses or is used to casually describe many distinct beliefs, which is why I prefer to avoid it. For example, it's been used to include:

a) strong atheism - belief that god(s) do not exist

This can range from certainty to simple 'more probably does not exist than does exist'.

It can also apply to only specific gods, some classes of gods, or indeed all gods at all. (Of course, the latter is a special case of the second, as believing no gods exist requires a definition of what qualifies as a god, which is likely to not take into account something that another person might consider to qualify.)

b) strong agonsiticism - believe that it is impossible to know whether god(s) exist

As you point out, this is quite compatible with theism, as it's really a distinct issue, though such compatibility requires a somewhat unusual explanation for the source of beliefs.

It can also be partial, e.g. believing that it applies only to positive or negative knowledge. One can believe that it is possible to know their presence, under certain circumstances; but not possible to definitively know their lack. You seem to have implied support for the former, in saying that some forms of public evidence might convince you as to a god's (Yahweh's?) existence.

c) gnosticism - the counter of b), belief that some forms of (generally personal) evidence would be sufficient to convince someone

You've been unclear on this one, in that you say that others' personal experiences may be sufficient proof for them, albeit not of a sort that is convincing to others.

d) weak agnosticism - merely lacking positive or negative belief, without making the above claim as to knowability

This is, ultimately, the only non-claim in the list. But few people are really so reserved that they would say they do not believe the IPU probably does not exist; that they don't know what kinds of claims are knowable; etc.

Of course, these are broad categories, and any individual's actual beliefs generally involve some mixture of elements from them. I hope this is obvious to the point of not needing time wasted, but I've seen people avoid answering this sort of question by punting to a silly "I'm not exactly that label" sidestep, rather than precisely stating what they do believe. I hope you won't.

Before addressing your beliefs, I'd like you to very clearly state what they are. Hopefully it is clear what I mean by this from the above, but a few example questions:

1. Do you affirmatively believe that any god or gods do not exist? If yes, how certain are you, what god(s) does this belief apply to, and why do you hold this belief?

2. What claims do you believe to be unknowable, and why?

3. What claims do you believe to be knowable by personal revelation, what evidence would you yourself accept, and why? For instance, what personal revelatory experience would count? Please use whatever is the minimum possible thing that would convince you of some sort of god existence, that's within the cultural realm of things attributable to such revelations.

In all cases, please be as precise as possible, make the strongest possible claim, and give your preferred definitions where needed - for example, what you prefer to consider as 'god' for the purposes of what gods in whom you affirmatively disbelieve.

Theramintrees, you seem like you'd be quite the interesting person to debate, if indeed we do have any differences. I open these questions to all atheists on youtube, though, as I'd be interested to hear your responses. Please use video responses only, unless it's just seeking clarification, as I find comments not very good for real discussion.



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